Photo of the Week: A Reshuffling of the Deck

04/30/2012 @ 12:01 pm, by Scott Jones18 COMMENTS

As the 2012 MotoGP plot thickens, no chapter is more complex than that of Ducati. Trying to turn the GP12 into a red Yamaha has been unsuccessful, but along the way it has become something the team’s second rider likes quite a bit. This is the best Ducati Nicky Hayden has ridden according to The Kentucky Kid, and his 3rd place in Jerez qualifying and up-front pace at the beginning of the race makes that plain to see.

For Nicky, the job is about finding a setting that allows him to keep that pace over race distance, whereas Rossi has admitted he needs to regroup and redefine his approach to a bike that is simply never going to be a Yamaha. “I must get used to riding the bike a bit differently than I’m used to,” he said after the race. “A bit differently” may be an understatement, for if it were only “a bit” he’d likely have done that already.

The tension in Rossi’s side of the garage is thick, as it is not only the rider who is experiencing failure under the microscope of international (and Italian, most intensely) media. A formerly very successful team of Burgess et al. is growing more and more frustrated with the lack of results and their own inability to apply their years of experience to a machine that doesn’t respond to their touch.

This weekend one journalist asked if it was a mistake to bring his crew from Yamaha and if he might have been better off with an Italian crew who had experience with the Ducati. Rossi appeared not to want to talk about that and deflected the question, saying his team had always served him well in the past.

But as Ducati bends over backwards and spends and spends for an aluminum frame, and who knows how many other secret concessions intended to please the rider have been made, the lucky benefactor becomes the hardest working man on two prototype wheels, Nicky Hayden. Let us pause to enjoy the irony. HRC put their eggs in a talented but tiny basket called Dani Pedrosa, and built a bike too small for Hayden to ride. Ducati is now trying to please their star rider and has come up with something that instead suits Hayden.

We may be in for a very interesting 2012 if we get to see how well the Greatest of All Time can adapt himself to a package that won’t respond to a riding style that has claimed nine world titles, and at the same time see Juan Martinez sharpen a tool that suits Nicky very nicely indeed.

Scott Jones is a professional photographer who covers MotoGP and WSBK for racing industry clients as well as racing websites and publications in the U.S. and Europe. His online archive is available at Photo.GP, and you can find him on his blogTwitter, & Facebook.

All images posted, shared, or sent for editorial use or review are registered for full copyright protection at the Library of Congress.

Photo: © 2012 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

  • Faster1

    ,,not hard to see why Nicky is more successful, Have more YEARS on a Ducati is paying off and in spite of the myriad of changes, a Duc will always be a Duc. , follow the leader, the photo says it all.

  • Westward

    I read another article that implied that Rossi felt the Ducati was lower and longer. Does that mean that they need to make it higher and shorter ? Is that what we can expect after Estoril?

    Now that Rossi has stated that he will approach riding the Ducati differently, I sure hope it works out for him. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I don’t subscribe to that. Besides, what if it is an old trick that just needs to be polished like new…

  • JW

    In the end Hayden will be respected as the hardest working rider in Moto GP with the greatest work ethic and good sportmanship. Who knows this may end him up with Yamaha…

  • Cruz

    Nice article, especially going back to the Honda/Dani reference.

    “…..bring his crew to Yamaha” shouldn’t it be either “to Ducati” or “from Yamaha”?

  • Good catch, thanks!

  • Neilmatic

    Nciky’s dirt track experience serves him well on the Ducati. Casey was once a dirt tracker too. Could dirt track riders (think rear wheel steering) be better suited for the power the Ducati puts out at the rear wheel?

  • Good job Nicky keep up the good work… As for Vale hopefully he figures something out soon and get back to the front again… WTF happened to Spies this year??

  • Steve Lang

    Good to see Nicky hauling Italian Ass-o and in the party. The first few laps looked like a gaggle of UFC fighters during a three day meth binge. “Holly Crap-o”, that was good.

  • jamesy

    Good job with the “tag line” Scott, bound to suck us in on that.
    Yeah, a bunch of people who love Nicky’s steady and positive demeanor loved seeing him out front early.
    C’mon if that isnt the guy most fans would love to share a drink with,, then who is??
    And Westward; I AM an old dog and its only partly true about the tricks…
    Wasnt that a cracking start??? I loved Steve Langs’ analogy
    Im already more entertained than I was 1/2 way through the season last year, this is working for me!!

  • Dr. Gellar

    I’ll second that regarding Steve Lang’s analogy. The first five or so laps of Sunday’s MotoGP race was some of the most entertaining stuff I’ve seen during a MotoGP race in a very, very long time. For a moment, I couldn’t believe it was a MotoGP race…the action was very Moto2-ish.

  • John

    I have always been a fan of Nicky Hayden and have nothign but respect for him. His championship back in 2006 was no fluke! It’s amazing how HRC developed the bike solely for Dani Pedrosa while excluding the rider who won a championship with Honda! And did Dani Pedrosa deliver a championship? Of course not. I’m willing to bet that if you put Nicky Hayden on that bike this year, that he will be top 3 throughout the rest of the season. Who knows. Maybe another championship is waiting for Nicky. I certainly hope so!

  • Jake

    fans forget Dani is Spanish and Repsol is Spanish petroleum company and they pay the bills so they must have a say in bike development

  • Jake

    as for Nicky, great ambassador for the sport of motorcycling period. how many Nicky specials have been built to honor his contributions to the sport. Honda 04 RC51 and Ducati 848. It was odd no Fireblade was built to commemorate his GP title win.

  • Westward

    I like Hayden, but 2006, a fluke…

  • jamesy

    Westward, that’s sooo wrong. See you giveth and then you taketh away! A FLUKE is not defined by a carefully orchestrated effort by ALL concerned.. at least not at my house.
    The only Fluky thing about it was the dildo Pedrosa almost knocking him off the bike and costing he and Honda the championship.
    It wasnt easy beating Mladin before that either, even tho he had far superior horsepower, not everyone could ride that bike and it was something to watch. Mat NEVER issued any passes to anyone
    Not saying hjs effort has always been to the max of his ability, but cant say NOT so either. Lets face it sometimes you’ve got it more than other times.
    An altogether wonderfully talented young man WHO HAS EARNED IT!

  • Jake

    I like Nicky, I really do, and I pull for him every time he’s racing. I believe he probably works harder and maintains a better attitude than anyone else on the track. That said, I don’t believe he’s quite on the same skill level as Stoner, Lorenzo, and Rossi. I just haven’t seen the evidence of an ability to click off perfect lap after perfect lap like I have with the others. He can set a blazing fast time when the conditions are right, but consistency under pressure is a problem.

  • Westward

    @ jamsey

    Personally I do not consider the Pedrosa incident a fluke. If it were, than Elias knocking Rossi down that same year was a fluke too.

    The only true flukes that year, that determined the title were the Yamaha engine failures at LeMans and Laguna Seca for Rossi. His fall at Valenica, and Elias again being a factor and edging him out in Estoril (though a definition of a fluke) are arguably so, but are also just considered the hazards of racing.

    The final race at Valencia that years was a perfect analogy to the season the eventual title winner, in that Hayden did not so much as win, but rather Rossi lost it…

    Hayden’s efforts put him in the position to be the champion that year. However, it was the circumstances of others (ie. Rossi and Capirossi) that made it so…

    To be honest, even HRC knew it, that is why they still backed Pedrosa over Hayden every year ’til finally Hayden was pushed out…

  • jamesy

    So then, to recap your premise; The entire year was a fluke? It was “flukier” that Nick won than Rossi lost due to falls? I remember Rossi riding very aggressively that year knocking Melandri down at one point when he could clearly see his wheel. I say it was Rossi’s aggressiveness that lost him the title both with his engine and with other riders.
    What Nick did was to handle his business in a championship winning manner rather than riding on the edge of disaster as his rivals often did.
    You claim to be privy to the thinking of HRC, perhaps that’s so. I see it differently again. I believe that Honda, who had proposed the 800 CC rule in the first place, bought odds on the tiniest rider they could find and in so doing were blowing smoke up their own arses. Pedrosa is not championship material as he has been showing us for years. I’m not in his mind but it looks like a lack of mental toughness to me, you know, of the type that has him wilting under extremes of pressure.
    No, I’m pleased to give Nick his full due on that championship, much as I do Lorenzo or anyone else. Heck we could re-write history under the guise of “flukism” if we set about to do so. Doohan didnt win it was the other guys that lost? Just sayin…
    And thanks by the way for the thought (and memory) provoking view of championships past, I mean it!